Women in media leadership roles face ‘immense’ challenges

Conor Brady describes issues of funding models’ demise at Ballybunion conference

Former “Irish Times” editor Conor Brady: “How do we pay for good journalism as distinct from ‘infotainment’ and recycled celebrity news?” he asked the ongoing Women in Media conference   in Ballybunion. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Former “Irish Times” editor Conor Brady: “How do we pay for good journalism as distinct from ‘infotainment’ and recycled celebrity news?” he asked the ongoing Women in Media conference in Ballybunion. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The challenges facing women in leadership roles in the media today are “immense”, according to former Irish Times editor Conor Brady.

Opening the fourth annual Irish Times-sponsored Women in Media conference at Kilcooly’s Country House hotel in Ballybunion, Brady drew attention to the rapidly changing structures and funding models of media organisations.

“How do we train, equip, and protect media personnel who are reporting from conflict zones, rather than leaving it to freelance kids with iPhones trying to get a toehold for themselves in their careers?” he asked.

Funding structures and models have broken down, he said.

“It’s not clear what they will be replaced with. It was interesting and disquieting to hear Noel Curran, the outgoing director general at RTÉ, acknowledge that the licence fee is no longer fit for purpose.

“So how do we fund newsrooms? How do we pay for good journalism as distinct from ‘infotainment’ and recycled celebrity news?”

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan, who was called away from the conference to a meeting, left a note to be read to those gathered which called attention to the 20th anniversary of the killing of journalist Veronica Guerin.

Social media

Irish Times daily features editor and columnist Róisín Ingle is chairing a panel featuring Patricia O’Callaghan of RTÉ; Shauneen Armstrong, who is the Labour Party’s head of online; Julie Dilger, communications manager at Twitter; Niamh Sweeney, head of public policy at Facebook.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald was set to attend, but ongoing talks on the formation of a new government have kept her in Dublin.

Tánaiste Joan Burton arrived on Friday evening, and RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan is also attending. This year’s keynote speaker is Olivia O’Leary.

In some ways, Ballybunion is an unlikely setting for a conference of big media and political players, but a statue of Bill Clinton swinging a golf club at the top of the town denotes that the place is adept at hosting powerful people.

Women’s podcast

The Irish Times

On Saturday morning, the political symposium, entitled “Challenges Facing Women Working in Media and Politics in 2016”, features Burton and Irish Examiner journalist Catherine Shanahan.

At 2pm, The Irish Times Women’s Podcast is hosting a live podcast recording chaired by Dr Aoibhinn Ní Shúilleabháin titled “The Producers”. It will examine the professional lives of producers across film, television drama and current affairs programming. The panel will include Katie Holly of Blinder Films; Aoife Stokes, producer of RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Show; and Catherine Magee who produced Rebellion and Charlie.

On Sunday, the topic of sports journalism as a catalyst for change will be explored by Anne McCarthy of Sport Ireland; former Irish women’s rugby captain Fiona Coughlan; Emily Glen of the Fair Game podcast; deputy head of RTÉ Television Sport Cliona O’Leary; and manager of the Irish women’s soccer team, Sue Ronan.

The conference will close on Sunday afternoon with a speech from former tánaiste Mary Harney.

Follow events at the conference on Twitter: #WIMballybunion16